We are all influenced by the images and ideas that invade our screens and commute and workspace. I know I am. So, allow me to give you a tour of my office where I spent time trying to craft a positive environment for productivity and growth.
You see those pictures on the left? One is a framed poem by Rav Kook:
Each of us must know that a candle burns within us –
A unique candle with its own distinct light.
Each of us must understand that we must strive to reveal the light from within
And combine our lights into a great flame that will illuminate the world.
The other displays a well-known teaching from Rav Nachman of Breslov: Every blade of grass has its own unique song and from the songs of the grass comes forth the tune of one’s heart.
Those beautiful thoughts inspire me to ask questions that help frame my day: What is my unique song? What role does my blade of grass have to play in this world? In what way will my flame illuminate today? This wall is all about my perspective and frame of mind. More on that in a future piece!
Let’s move on to the next wall where there are two pictures of rabbis. One is an old dusty picture of Rav Yehoshua Baumol, my great-grandfather and namesake, and the other is a vibrant, larger-than-life picture of Rav Gamliel Rabinowitz, one of my rebbeim. I hope to share more about them both at a later point, but for now, let’s name this wall my ‘Hashem Wall’ as these two people inspire me to serve G-d with awe and passion.
Lastly, the third wall of my office is filled with pictures of my family and friends. This is a wall that is dedicated to others. (There is no fourth wall but that’s a post for another time!)
The Maharal, in his commentary to the second Mishna in Avos, explains that “A person’s capacity for goodness can be divided into three parts: One’s own intrinsic goodness; one’s goodness in relationship with God; and one’s goodness in relationships with fellow human beings.” The Maharal continues and explains that the specific order- self, G-d, and others – is integral to one’s success. Without being grounded in a deep understanding of who I am I cannot begin to relate to anyone, even to G-d. Without believing in G-d and His commandments, I am left to my own weak and shallow devices to guide me in my interpersonal relationships.
As I mentioned in the last post, we often assume that managing is all about managing others. It’s a terrible mistake. Successful management begins with emotional intelligence, the art and science of knowing and working on oneself, leads to more authenticity which leads to greater trust among colleagues; it enables one to better manage emotions – a critical tool in dynamic leadership, and so much more. As Jennifer Porter writes in the Harvard Business Review, “To improve your team, first work on yourself.”
Every morning before I put my bags down and power up my computer, I allow my eyes to glance at those three walls and the message they convey. But you don’t need my office décor to do the same. Before every meeting, especially the difficult ones, take a moment to remind yourself who you are and what you value. And then and only then, go and be the best manager of others that you can be.
What helps you to check in with your emotional intelligence? What reminders do you have around your workspace?